Becoming a Doctor Later in Life: UK Edition
Applying for medicine can be a daunting task at any age. Not everyone decides to pursue medical school at 18 and many delay the decision to become a doctor until later in life. Thus not everyone’s route to medical school is the same. You may have already completed a degree at university, been working without higher education qualifications or even come from a non-scientific background. While each of these scenarios will require a different approach in applying to medical schools, admission to medicine is possible with any of these backgrounds.
Medical School: Delayed Entry
Due to the norm of thousands of 18-year-olds leaving school and entering university life, applying as a mature student can make you feel as if you are going at it alone. Gaining a coveted space at medical school is indeed harder as a mature student, but more and more options are opening up to those who decide to undertake medical training later in life.
In fact medical schools are no longer allowed to block those over a certain age which has seen a surge in the number of applicants in their 40s and 50s. Remember you will be assessed on your drive to study medicine as well as your skill set, so do not be put off purely by your age or current qualifications.
How Best to Prepare your Medical School Application
We describe in the rest of the article the different routes of entry into medical school after 18, but there are a few core requirements to know. Academically each university will want to see strong ability in science and this of course either comes at degree or A-level standard and can also be assessed via the GAMSAT, which is an aptitude test.
Only a small number of universities accept the GAMSAT however. If you already have one science A-level, or have the time to study in the evenings to meet the minimum A-level requirements, this may be your fastest route to entry. Chemistry A-level is actually the most vital qualification with the obvious choice of biology A-level coming a close second. Check out our list of medical school A-level requirements.
Will Studying Medicine fit with My Life?
This is an important question to ask yourself before going any further with the application process. Ignoring the demands and requirements of the job you will still need to dedicate 4 to 5 years of your life to a high-intensity degree program. The majority of your peers on the course will also be 18-year-olds with only a handful of mature students to socialise with.
You need to be aware if you have a family that in the later years of medical school you will be required to commute to various hospitals within a certain area. This area can vary wildly in size being relatively small for London based medical schools but covering the whole of Wales for Cardiff Medical School.
Graduate Entry Medicine
This seems to be the most usual route via which people study medicine at a later stage in life. For the majority of universities it will be expected that you have graduated with your first degree in a science subject and have achieved at the very least an upper second class honours. In recent years there has been a move towards accepting degrees achieved in the humanities, however it is wise to phone the University and confirm this is the case before proceeding with any application.
Graduate entry medicine programs, due to their assumption that candidates have a solid scientific background, tend to last for a shortened four years. That being said, as a graduate you are still eligible to apply for undergraduate, full-length courses lasting five years.
The following medical schools currently offer a graduate entry programme into medicine:
As mentioned there has been a move in the UK to allow those becoming a doctor later in life to do so from a humanities background. You will still be expected to show a strong interest in science and be able to explain coherently your desire to pursue a career in medicine considering your humanities background.
You may also have some scientific qualifications but they may be considered inadequate medical school application. If this is the case may be able to take whichever examinations are lacking or undertake a foundation degree at certain universities. Foundation courses in medicine are sometimes described as pre-clinical years and are available at the following medical schools:
University of Nottingham
University of Sheffield
Studying medicine as a mature student
Some applicants who have the drive to become a doctor later in life followed a path which did not include gaining a university degree or at times A-levels. To diversify the background of medical school applicants there are a number of Access to Medicine courses available. These courses are usually held at a local college rather than a university, with the results being accepted by many medical schools as a valid qualification.
This is still a developing area in the medical school application space so requirements and eligibility criteria can vary from school to school and year to year. When reviewing courses make sure to contact the course providers as information posted online can at times be out of date.
Finances can at times be a concern, however access to medicine courses are designed with accessibility in mind and reduced fees are commonplace for those eligible.